Category Archives: Devotional

God’s Love Sets a New Standard

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Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.-Colossians 3:12-14

God loves us. There is no doubt about that. But what does it mean to be loved by God? A loving relationship is a two-way conversation. So what are we charged to do in our loving relationship with God if love is in fact a dynamic conversation? And where do we begin? The verse in Colossians speaks strongly to these questions. We, as God’s chosen and whom He dearly loves, are instructed to clothe ourselves in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Clothe ourselves in these abstract words?

Do you have a favorite T-shirt? A pair of shoes? How about sweatpants? Come on! I know that everyone has a half-torn article of clothing somewhere in their wardrobe. The softness and comfort cannot be replicated. And the accompanying memories can’t either. I have a blue T-shirt that I inherited from my mom when I was in middle school. It is a sleep shirt but it means so much more to me than that. My dad was a musician professionally when I was growing up. He would take frequent trips to Nashville, TN from our home base in Chicago, IL to write and record. He and his band would work at Studio 19 just off from the famous Music Row. But every time that my dad would come home from this trip, he’d bring us a present. One time it was Studio 19 T-shirts. Mine was orange and mom’s was blue. I wore my orange Studio 19 T-shirt for years to bed until the threads became so bear that we had to get rid of it. It was incredibly soft and became a comfort to feel it against my skin. The day that we threw away my orange shirt, my mom gave me her blue one. Of course, I had to “break it in” for myself but I still have it. On the outside it represents Studio 19. But in reality it represents a time in my life. It represents my mom and dad. It represents feelings that cannont be seen.

Because we are God’s chosen we represent Him. Just like the old blue T-shirt. Like an article of clothing we are to wear compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience for they are the logos on our Christian uniform. I caution you to jump right along with that for this reason: we can remove clothing. So why would the image of clothing be used if we can just “take off” these virtues? Well, the last verse of Colossians speaks to that.  For it says,”And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Love is a feeling which comes from deep inside of us. Sure we can show or express love through words and actions but love can’t be removed like clothing in an instant. In the image of the clothing, love is the thread. And love is at the heart of the virtues: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. You can not authentically demonstrate or have these virtues without love. God is telling us that because He loves us; we are expected to love others. God made us in His image and think about it. By loving those around us we are in turn showing our love for God.

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God Teaches Us Because He Loves Us

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Then Jesus said,”Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40

Whoa. That is a pretty big question. But let’s put it into context for a moment. Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. Recall that Lazarus and his sisters were friends of Jesus. In Luke 11: 38-42, Martha  hosted Jesus and His disciples in her home in a town called Bethany around 3 kilometers from Jerusalem during His ministry. While Martha is frantically serving and moving about the house, her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet just listening. Think for a moment about the conversations that occurred at this table in that home!

Flash forward. Martha and Mary were worried. Lazarus, their brother had become very sick.  John 11:5 says that Jesus loved the trio of siblings and when Lazarus fell ill the sisters knew who they could rely on. They sent word to Jesus to let Him know that Lazarus is about to perish. Here’s where I find that the story becomes interesting. Jesus tells the disciples in verse 4 that Lazarus’ sickness “will not end in death. No it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”  In other words, He was in control. There was a purpose.

In hard times, do you ever sit back and wonder,” Why am I being put through this??” I’m sure Martha and Mary thought the same thing after Lazarus became sick. Why do bad things happen to good people? It is unclear whether Lazarus lived with his sisters but we often associate men with being the head of the household especially in the time of Christ around 30AD. Regardless, it must have been concerning for Martha and Mary to see the upcoming loss of their brother. In panic, the ladies reach out to Jesus. Just like we do. But there is no indication of an answer sent back to the ladies. They must have been worried sick after Jesus didn’t come rushing to Lazarus’ side. I know I would have been incredibly upset!

The disciples are the ones to hear John 11: 4 and as verse 6 indicates, Jesus remained where He was and allowed Lazarus to die. And as Jesus tells the disciples,”Lazarus is dead and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Is it coincidence that a person that Jesus’ loves dearly was allowed to die just to teach us or provide us with an example experience? Is it slightly similar to John 3:16?  I loosely place ourselves in the disciples’ position because like them, we are human. We doubt, we argue and we want to be the ones in control. We seek answers to unanswerable questions and yet without frustration or contempt Jesus teaches us because He knows that we need proof. So Jesus agrees to go to Lazarus, Martha and Mary in Bethany despite the resistance and danger that Jesus was in by traveling in the area. Again, risking His and the disciples’ safety for the people who He loves: Martha, Mary, Lazarus and the disciples. There is a lesson to be learned and Jesus was determined to reveal what the disciples and sisters did not know.

I challenge you to remain patient and keep awareness during the hard times of life. God is trying to use these moments to teach us or equip us to relate to others experiencing similar situations. But don’t forget, these moments are intended to bring God glory. Not us. And it is easy. We don’t have to study. We don’t have to work to earn it. We just need to remain faithful. God teaches us because He loves us.

Your love is better than life!

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Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. -Psalm 63:3-4

Last night in my women’s Bible study group we talked about the great power of Jesus and how daily we need to remind ourselves that His power is greater than any challenge that we are facing. There is nothing that we should fear when we believe. So true is that statement where power is replaced by love. With the beginning of February and such a love surrounded season, I will be posting on the theme of God’s love for us.

The psalmists affirms God’s love. It is better than life. No argument there. Life is hard and mostly overwhelming. There are unexpected twists and turns. Hurts, misunderstandings and heartache. But rejoice and breathe because God is better than all of that. Remember, the conclusion of the Bible study??

Every hurt that I have come through successfully on the other side was because of God and His love. This last year was really hard for me mentally and emotionally. My thesis work was getting me down. I felt that I was consistently failing and letting everyone down. I kept trying, and trying, and trying to no avail. I couldn’t shake the feelings of worthlessness. Finally, I found myself in this darkness angry with God and questioning where He was in all of it. I felt like a bad version of Job. I argued back with God. It didn’t make sense why He had opened the doors for me to go to graduate school, transfer and then leave me feeling helpless. I didn’t see the point in all of the pain and self-doubt. Especially since the person I was didn’t feel like me. But after enough grumbling, I decided that I had to surrender. I had to trust. I had to trust God’s love for me. It shouldn’t be hard for us to trust God’s love because it is unfailing but we still do sometimes. Don’t we? Like it is too good to be true.

I would go on further to say that God’s love is bigger than life. But because of His love, the promise to allow only glory to escape our lips is made. He deserves nothing less than our praise. Every moment, every day and every blessing comes from Him. We should have a hard time keeping our praises quiet because of all the overwhelming joy and overfilled cups. But when we are in those dark places or feel alone it is hard to acknowledge that we are lovable. We deserve love and we have a God that is ready to shower us with love. And a love that transcends any earthly love.

Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. -Psalm 63:3-4

Beauty is What’s on the Inside

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“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

I’ll be the first to admit that my appearance is important to me. I won’t leave the house without feeling “cute” to myself and when I don’t, I feel self-conscious all day! I always ask my husband as a second opinion. And as a good husband he always tells me that I look beautiful no matter how risky a combination I might be wearing that day. I feel prettier when I paint my nails,  highlight my facial features with eyeliner and spend and extra 30 minutes curling my hair to look like Sleeping Beauty’s. New clothes and shoes always give me a bump in esteem. I catch myself “checking myself out” in my reflection in windows and glass throughout the day. After eating, I always check my teeth. Do you find yourself doing the same things? Why does it matter what other people see when they look at us?

According to 1 Peter,  real beauty comes from the inside.  Have you ever noticed that when something good happens to you, you just sort of beam? It comes from within and you can nearly contain your happiness. It’s like when you find out that you got the highest grade in your class, won an award, answered a question right in front of the class, just were told that you were loved by a significant other, lost five pounds, landed that promotion, got engaged, or found out that you were expecting your first child. It is that inner joy that cannot be replicated on the outside with clothes, jewelry or even a new haircut. It causes you to walk taller, with greater confidence and with a smile plastered on your face. Shouldn’t we exude the same joy from the inside through our walk and faith in Christ? That’s the beauty that Peter is talking about.

Rather than spending time on our outward appearance, I think that Peter, the encourager, it suggesting that we shift our focus to our inner spirituality. It is the true us that only God knows and the person that we show to the world through our actions and words. God knows who we are. He reads our thoughts and hears the intentions of our hearts. Primping our inner selves becomes important and attainable through Bible Study and prayer. It is hard to cast away our outer selves but we have to persevere. Most importantly, we draw closer to our heavenly Father and in turn become better witnesses to those around us. I challenge you to harness that gentle spirit that Peter describes because instead of pleasing the onlookers of the world, shift your focus to pleasing and bringing glory to the One who loves you for you.